There's Nothing Like Dame Darcy

Chris Klimek

The Examiner

We’ve all met people with cool jobs we’d like to have. But have you ever run into someone who has pretty much every job you’ve ever wanted to have? Understand, then, reader, my extreme envy for Dame Darcy, the Los Angeles-based comics artist, filmmaker, publisher, touring musician, fashion and interior designer, dollmaker and teacher (in no particular order) who is showing original work from her 2008 graphic novel, “Gasoline,” at Civilian Art Projects in the Penn Quarter through Feb. 7. (For the record, I’ve never wanted to be a dollmaker or an interior designer.)

Darcy started her offbeat comics series “Meat Cake” in 1989, while she was still a teenager attending the San Francisco Art Institute on scholarship. The respected independent publisher Fantagraphics picked up “Meat Cake” in 1992, after Darcy moved to New York, finding work with outlets from The Village Voice to the Cartoon Network. She continued to publish her black-and-white series of Victorian-flavored fairy tales sporadically, while teaching cartooning and self-publishing at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan and performing music with the likes of Sonic Youth and the John Spencer Blues explosion. Her current musical outlet is the goth band Death by Doll, wherein Darcy sings and plays bass. The group has released a CD of original songs, also titled “Gasoline,” to accompany the book. Darcy also plans a feature film adaptation, to be a hybrid of live action and animation.

“Gasoline” the book was six years in the making, the culmination of an ascending curve of ambition and sophistication in Darcy’s comics work, which also includes the prior graphic novels “Frightful Fairytales” and “The Illustrated ‘Jane Eyre.’” Released last fall, “Gasoline,” is a sort of sunnier take on the apocalyptic future depicted in the seminal 1982 science fiction movie “The Road Warrior.” Except with witches. And, um, nihilists. (You kind of have to read it for it to make sense. But come on, how insane do you sound trying to summarize a Harry Potter novel for somebody who’s never read one?)

Work from “Gasoline” is displayed in their narrative sequence at Civilian, giving you a sense of the humor and mystery of its story. Darcy’s work has always been a feast for the eyes, a near-hallucinatory marriage of oddly matched styles and techniques: expressionism, newspaper cartooning, etching, fine art illustration. To see her images — colorful and inviting, but shot through with the faint flicker of menace — framed and displayed at nearly double the size of the comics page is a rare treat.

Carole Wagner Greenwood and Dame Darcy

Maura Judkis

Washington City Paper

It did not take Carole Wagner Greenwood quite as long as Odysseus to find her way home. The local artist’s exhibition—her first solo show in six years—easily bests Odysseus’ 10-year epic journey, the inspiration for many of Greenwood’s sculptures. In Civilian Art Projects’ “Ghosts and Circumstance,” the theme of finding one’s way echoes throughout most of Greenwood’s works, which combine plaster, linen, and found objects to a wistful, organic effect. Titles of works hint at the story arc of The Odyssey,” such as “How to Get From Here to There” and “Who Ate the Navigator.” Greenwood has also mapped out the battles and skirmishes on the way home from Troy in a plaster landscape that serves as a record of Odysseus’ triumphs. The artist is at her best, however, with her most minimal works—the simplest and most interesting sculpture is “Tabula Rasa,” a frame stretched with linen and held in place with tacks, ruched on one side. Also at Civilian, graphic novelist Dame Darcy’s illustrations for her book Gasoline depict a post-apocalyptic world of witches seeking the titular product, the most valuable commodity of their time. Darcy’s style verges, at times, into the territory of high school notebook doodles, with hearts, rainbows, and a cast of emo goth fairies. Other pages of the book are lovely; in particular, one of an old house crying. The witches seek gas as they learn to give up material things, and Darcy resists the urge to preach her overt eco-commentary, choosing whimsy instead.

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January 9, 2009 - February 7, 2009

Opening Reception: Friday, January 9, 2009 from 7pm - 10pm

Civilian Art Projects is pleased to host an exhibition featuring selected original works from Dame Darcy's graphic novel “Gasoline”, courtesy of Sloan Fine Art in New York. With the book’s emotional story and Dame Darcy’s intricate, romantic style, the original works from “Gasoline” stand alone as compelling individual pieces.